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A day of gritty viewing

May 19, 2009

I went to two films today: Mary and Max this afternoon and Samson and Delilah this evening. Hmmm…both films are named for their two main characters. What an interesting coincidence. Both films are also slow-paced aiming, I think, to give a sense of “real time” but, while Mary and Max is a highly verbal film, Samson and Delilah is almost silent. Both are powerful though.

The claymation Mary and Max is Adam Elliot’s first feature. If a film could be called an epistolary film then this would be it, as the film is primarily about the penfriend relationship between Mary in Australia and Max in New York, and much of the story is carried through their letters and voice-over narration. At the start of the film, Mary is 8 and living in a rather dysfunctional family, and Max is 48 and living alone. Max, it also becomes clear, has Aspberger Syndrome. The thing, though, that draws them together is that both are lonely and want a friend. Mary and Max’s individual lives are beautifully realised – exaggerated and yet real at the same time – in gorgeous claymation detail. The music – including Elena Kats-Chernin’s rather eerie Russian Rag (introducing Max’s life in New York) and Pink Martini’s jangling Que sera sera (at Mary’s crisis point) – is perfectly chosen to convey the darkness behind the comedy. While the film makes you laugh, it is not a cheery film – and yet, it is also strangely affirming. Its point at the end is that we are all imperfect but that if  we accept our own flaws and tolerate/forgive the flaws in others we can have meaningful relationships.

Samson and Delilah is another thing altogether. It is an amazingly sustained movie in which little is said and in which both a lot and at the same time very little happens. It is set in a tiny indigenous community in central Australia and tells the story of two teenagers and the relationship that develops between them in an atmosphere of dislocation and cultural breakdown. When circumstances result in Samson and Delilah hitting the road together, things go downhill rapidly as they struggle to survive in a town (Alice Springs?) unfriendly to those who appear to have nothing. The film covers a lot of ground including petrol sniffing, homelessness, violence, and exploitation of Aboriginal artists. While it has some light touches at the beginning, it is pretty unremittingly bleak: it is hard to retain dignity when you are given little respect and have nothing meaningful to do. Interestingly, the message seems to be that women are the strong(er) ones, and that they are (might be) the key to the future. But the film’s resolution is a qualified one – you do not leave this film thinking all is, or even will in the near future be, well.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2009 3:19 pm

    I *like* this idea of reviewing films too. I have never really learned ‘film literacy’ and so I shall be enjoying these posts.
    Lisa

  2. whisperinggums permalink*
    May 19, 2009 11:13 pm

    Thanks Lisa. I won’t promise to review every film I see – such as Star Trek last weekend – I’ll try to do ones that I think have some meat!

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